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Train lovers get trip down memory lane

Mark Holty, left, of Rochester, and Dale Rood, of Dodge Center, set up their HO scale model trains at the Rail Runners Model Railroad Club in Grand Meadow. The club has an open house for the next two weekends to show the public what they have to offer.

GRAND MEADOW — Born out of a beer-and-pizza brainstorming session almost a decade ago, the Rail Runners Model Railroad Club has invested thousands of dollars pursuing its hobby in a secluded room far off the beaten path.

However, a series of recent open houses has allowed the public to enjoy the charm of the child-sized choo-choos.

The club's guestbook contains names from all over southeast Minnesota, plus a few from Iowa, who have ventured to the Grand Meadow Business Center to examine the multilevel model train track spread over nearly 1,000 square feet.

Faces young and old paused to examine the scenery Sunday afternoon, choosing to watch up to eight model trains moving simultaneously over the train wreck that has become the 2013 Minnesota Vikings season.

"This railroad is kind of a nostalgic trip back into the 20th century," said Glenn Damerell, a 78-year-old Rochester resident who organized the informal club gathering about 10 years ago.


"The whole intent was to model the railroad just the way it was in the Great Era before … the airport business really got going. This is kind of a historical picture."

The informal club includes about a dozen members who meet every Wednesday to meticulously craft shrubs, buildings or historically accurate model trains from the early-to-mid 1900s. Such work used to be done at Hendy's Hobby Shop in Miracle Mile, but the club has been renting space in Grand Meadow for the last eight years, Damerell said.

While the group consists of middle-aged men and older, some kids were seen filtering through the area during Sunday's three-hour open house. That brought back fond memories for Damerell and fellow club member Mark Holty, who both got hooked on the hobby as youngsters.

"I just fell in love with trains when I was a little kid," said Holty, who was in charge of running the trains at Sunday's event.

Additional open house events are scheduled from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. the next two Saturdays, Nov. 9 and 16, and 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10.

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